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Playing Host

Playing Host

by Andy Davis, images by Craig Kolesky/SanDisk / 26.05.2010

It seems we misunderstood something when South Africa was awarded the rights to host the 2010 World Cup. Ever since we pitched for the event in 2006, and were beaten by Germany, there has been this phony sense of expectation hanging over our World Cup. It’s a kind of entitlement. The World Cup was going to be a fresh start for Africa. An opportunity to right some of history’s wrongs. Like slavery, colonialism, exploitation. It’s an old, sad song. Africa has had it rough and we’re a hopeful people. We’re always looking for that silver lining. So we heaped all these unrealistic expectations on a soccer tournament. Representation for South African artists on a global stage. Opportunities for poor traders and grass roots entrepreneurs. And we hoped that our World Cup would runneth over.

But really it was misguided of us to expect so much from a global sporting event run as a business by a Swiss based global federation that controls the game of football imperially, like a rich first world country. And yes they have acted like the capitalists they are. FIFA have been heavy handed with their copyright and their exclusion zones. They’ve been mean-spirited and litigious, and they’ve largely been backed by our “revolutionary” politicians. In short, their crooks got along very well with our crooks. But in the spirit of South Africa’s irrepressible silver lining mining, let’s try dig out some positives.

The World Cup has been the impetus for this government to get involved in some seriously big infrastructural development and public spending. Since 1994 the South African government hasn’t really engaged in any major public works. Certainly not on the level of what’s been achieved recently. It’s as if they were scared to tackle mammoth infrastructural building projects. And while our population grew, the roads got clogged and deteriorated, there was no real attempt to offer viable public transport, urban renewal stalled – then all of a sudden, with a swish of Sepp Blatter’s wand, we get the World Cup, and suddenly we had to build all these shiny new things. Yes, it’s sad that an old, white Swiss taskmaster like Sepp Blatter had to crack the whip and get our politicians to dance to his tune. And yes, it’s sad that our government couldn’t really get it together to achieve these infrastructural developments without a World Cup, but hey, what did we expect? “Democratic” Politics and Advanced Capitalism are grubby bedfellows. They’re systems that seem to reward the biggest rats. And while we all wish the people who govern could have found the money and the will to build more, better hospitals, orphanages, schools, mental institutions, prisons; maybe we need to be a little more pragmatic. Take the bird in the hand.

Yes a lot of politically connected goons and tenderpreneurs made themselves richer through the World Cup. And yes, the Local Organising Committee doesn’t feel that it’s necessary to have to account to the people of South Africa as to how they spent all our money. But hey, we got 10 brand new, world class stadiums out of the deal. Every major metropole has a new public transport system, roads were built with new interchanges to ease traffic flows, public amenities have been upgraded. South Africa has seen a boom in productivity like no other. Apart from the basic infrastructural gains, the World Cup has shown those in government that large public works projects are possible and can be achieved on deadline, if not on budget. And hopefully it’s taught the politicians an important lesson. That they can continue to enrich themselves while still providing and improving basic services and development for the people of South Africa. It’s an ugly kind of pragmatism for such an optimistic country. But maybe that’s the best place to start.

Perhaps the post-cynical South African photographer Nick Aldridge summed it up best when he said, “No one in South Africa seems to have questioned what being the host means. The host sets out the chairs, provides the meal and cleans up the mess when everyone goes home. What didn’t we understand?”

All images © Craig Kolesky/SanDisk

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  1. score says:

    how many “guests” tell the “hosts” how to behave in their own house though?

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  2. googlethu says:

    FiFA is a rapist and we are willing victims

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  3. Andy says:

    “This is a revolutionary house.” – Julius Malema

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  4. Andy says:

    well Googlethu is it rape then? Maybe we just kinky… and easy.

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  5. judy says:

    Overkill. That Edmonds dick just wrote something about this.

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  6. Andy says:

    Oh Judy… go re-read Brandon’s thing. It was totally different. You’re so sour and dismissive, but you spend all your time popping up on the Mahala message boards. Me smell a rat!

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  7. googlethu says:

    Lol, I suppose we’er kinky then…

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  8. nice, but unconvinced says:

    Good article. You offer a fresh perspective on what’s becoming a stink.
    Nevertheless, I am still incapable of looking at Soccer City and not thinking – “Hey that’s swell as a soccer stadium – would’ve made an even better hospital though. Especially with all them babies dying.”

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  9. The JZA says:

    the stadiums will come in handy in a few years when President Mbalula needs holding centers for dissidents and counter-revolutionaries.

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  10. Luke says:

    Any good host listens to the needs of theirs guests in the hope that by making them happy they will rave about the host to others not fortunate enough to be invited and also to ensure that the guests wish to visit again!

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  11. ClaireinCT says:

    Excellent article, thank you.

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  12. rusty says:

    Fabulous pictures -great energy ! always love your view Andy

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  13. Will.I.Am says:

    I say we nationalise FIFA, in fact lets nationalise soccer

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  14. mary says:

    I call it the whirled kak as that is what it is, but will concede that without sport we would have more wars- so will put up with it.

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  15. Anonymous says:

    schools, hospitals, free tertiary education? nope
    we got football stadiums.

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  16. Andy says:

    Sad thing is that without this World Cup, it would’ve just been more frenzied feeding trough politics.

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  17. Morrris says:

    FIFA se poes

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  18. P says:

    Can anyone tell me if fifa contributed any money towards the costs of hosting this f-ing soccer thing?

    ..and does anyone know what Danny Jordaan earns from this whole deal?

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  19. Mike Miller (USA) says:

    Its great for an ex pat like me to see really international things happening in ‘die ou land.’ Its about time all the critics got off their butts and truly worked together as ‘rainbows’ in a beautiful country. Moaning is the worst thing possible. Take the bull by the horns and allow the less privileged to see the soccer – I believe the ticket sales are rather poor – so reduce prices and offer tickets all around.
    This is really only a sporting event, but the reaction can be cataclysmic to the country. Let the politicians come off their shelves and truly offer something to benefit the country by way of more visible benefits for the masses (ie better safety and facilities). The world is watching, not only soccer. Good luck!

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  20. sista says:

    the cape town stadium cost 4.5 billion…..
    the WHOLE v&a waterfront was sold for 7 billion….

    new roads and public transport and some new infrastructure…thats great…
    but the stadiums….surely all we needed was ONE new big stadium in the country?

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  21. alexis says:

    hmmm….only the benefits of the infrastructural changes only serve to benefit upper income areas or gentrify areas so that the poor are displaced.

    So, infrastructure that is biased towards a month long soccer event is hardly prudent. Our IDP says that the benefits of development and municipal service delivery must reach the poor first. Tell me how the poor have benefited – apart from having rushed job mega-housing projects put up under contentious conditions like that of the N2 Gateway project? Informal traders have been displaced. Just to show you how content our people are, Abahlali baseMjongolo plan to erect shacks outside the Greenpoint Stadium – and I say brilliant.

    What really blew my mind is the R80 mill being spent on the opening ‘spectacle’ which comes out of Joburg Municipality and the Dept of Arts and Culture budget. R18 mill of which is to be spent on fireworks. This is criminal. That is 300 RDP homes! If you gave people a say as to what they’d rather have – which is how a democracy is supposed to work – which option do you think they’d choose? I’d certainly choose for my taxes to be spent on housing, education and economic democracy.

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  22. Happy says:


    I’m just looking forward to the foreign pussy!

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  23. Porl says:


    We are not rainbows. We are a country where most people are in desperate need of help from the state. Most are uneducated, hungry and cold.

    This world cup has cost the country 6bn rand and hopes to see 2bn returned (that was the figure when the expected visitors dropped from 3 million to 500 000. Now that the expected number has again been downgraded to about 350 000, we should expect a return of about R1.5bn. We’re gonna be paying for these f-ing stadiums for the rest of our lives while we watch the poor get poorer….already, rates, electricity and water are going up.

    I stand to be corrected but I understand that Fifa has already declared a $1bn proffit.

    The city of cape Town couldn’t afford to build walls around 50 township toilets but they’re replacing all the street lamps along greenpoint and Seapoint beach road with newer ‘better’ ones.

    The reality of this world cup is definitely not what you’re gonna see on TV
    …just really glad that our pimps have greased us up so nicely for the fisting.

    I’m sure it’s gonna be a great show!

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  24. La says:

    good article nephew ! and they ask why us slaapstaters aren’t excited like the rest of the counry are- well I think we see the light – which we will have to switch off when our rich fifa friends fuck off with their pockets full.

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  25. Mike Miller (USA) says:


    The whole show has my blessings for the benefit which could flow from it. I know some pockets are getting lined with gold, but isn’t this the whole world’s philosophy? Greed will always be there. I will be watching with interest and hope this shows the government. how to improve safety and security for all.

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  26. ctguy says:

    Wow people are dumb.

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  27. Gregg says:

    Great article Andy man … dig your perspective.

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  28. Jess M says:

    Interesting. It’s a mixed bag – sure we have fancy new stadiums, better roads and the beginnings of a real transport system. Problem with the stadiums – and Greenpoint to be specific – is that to maintain them we’re gonna need them full every single weekend (or so i hear, correct me if i am wrong). Is it achievable? It’s a lot like th CTICC – it has to be brimming with people every conference to break even, and it doesn’t so it constantly runs at a loss. Difference is we’re paying for the stadiums.

    I personally think its pretty shit that FIFA is turfing out the traders who have been in areas around the stadium for years in their “clean up”. sure, I understand there are reasons behind it in terms of safety and other such things, but these people now have nowhere else to trade. Big business and government make a wad, the little guys gets stiffed. It’s a shame.

    That all said, I’m not anti this world cup, I think it could do good for SA’s international image and standing if we pull it off and avoid any mass disaster.

    All in all, dig the article.

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  29. ninja says:

    yes, the host gets left with the mess and we shall clean up with pride and the one’s in need might not get left with money or walls or housing but will be left with pride and that goes a long way – with pride we can build houses and achieve anything- especially putting an end to crime and violence.
    Imagine the world cup in Brazil now- pride and joy would overflow all problems.
    Thanks for the article Andy!

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